Hina Matsuri Festival 2011

So I’m in the United States visiting my family and friends, and I realize that today is a very important day in Japan. March 3rd is Hina Matsuri in Japan. I knew I was going to miss it (I left for America on February 28th) so I prepared for this in advance. On February 11th, 2011, some of our students took us to Makabe and the Inbaba Brewery. I have done two separate posts about this outing, but I saved the most important piece for last. The main reason we went to Makabe was to see an early, Hina Matsuri showcase. Makabe is a traditional town that’s famous for it’s Hina Matsuri dolls. The entire town had been set up to showcase these special dolls. Dolls adorned the windows and interiors of nearly every shop, restaurant and house that you could find. Some of the places that had more detailed/older displays and red, numbered cards on the front of the buildings. I think this made it easier to navigate which shops to see on the Makabe map. Hina Matsuri is an important aspect of Japanese culture and after having been in Japan for three years, this is my first time getting an inside glimpse of what it’s all about.

What is Hina Matsuri?

Hina Matsuri is the Festival of Dolls that happens on March 3rd. Also known as Girl’s Day, Hina Matsuri is a Japanese custom that’s been going on for hundreds of years. During Hina Matsuri people display intricately designed dolls in dressed in ancient court costumes. These dolls are placed on a 5 or 7-tiered display covered in scarlet cloth. The dolls represent the Emperor, Empress, and their court.

Hina Matsuri Dolls

While walking around in Makabe one of the stores had these Hina Matsuri information sheets that talked a bit more about Hina Matsuri. The cool thing was that it was in English. Here is what it said:

“Japanese history contains many references to dolls. One ancient example is the haniwa of the Kofun period. Dolls have even been used as an artistic medium, as in the bunraku puppet theater. In the Heian period, some dolls were used as children’s toys. Dolls are also featured in traditional Japanese festive events. One of these is the Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) on March 3rd, when girls place Hina dolls on step-like tiers in the family living room, offer prayers for good fortune, and drink a sweet, sake-based drink called shiro-zake. The dolls are put away the following day until next year. Some of these traditional dolls are heirlooms handed down for several centuries. Even though these festivals have become highly commercialized, the dolls continue to represent parents’ hopes for their children.”

Having never seen a Hina Matsuri before, I must say that it was truly fascinating. I am so glad that I was able to experience even more of Japan’s rich history.

Hina Matsuri Photos

Donald Ash

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